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Wednesday, 5 October 1927

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - On the motion for the first reading of a Supply Bill one may, if so disposed, deal with matters that are.not relevant to the bill itself. There is a very wide field for debate, if an honorable senator wishes to speak on matters of moment to the people. I propose to confine my remarks to the subject raised by Senator Needham. I know, of course, that the Government and its supporters never tire of declaring that Australia's greatest need is population, and still more population. They entertain a hazy idea - at least some of them do - that population is synonymous with prosperity, and appear to think that, if Australia had a much larger population there would be fewer unemployed and much greater prosperity than the Commonwealth' has enjoyed to the present. If that were true, all the older countries, with their teeming millions, should have few, if any, unemployed, and there should be general prosperity, happiness, and contentment. But, so. far from that being the case, we find that those old-world countries, with large populations, are extremely anxious to get rid of. what they call - it is an offence to me - their surplus population. They .speak of a surplus of human beings as they would talk about a surplus of commodities. To assist overseas countries to send some of their unemployed to Australia, this Government some time ago appointed certain gentlemen as a commismon to act the part of a super Parliament. It was implied that the Development and Migration Commission would, by the waving of its magic, wand, solve the unemployed problem, establish industries, primary ' and secondary, and

So organize the migration activities of the Government that both Britain and Australia would be helped by the arrangements that had been entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial authorities. But no provision has been made by the commission, as far as I know, to find employment for a solitary man or woman in the Commonwealth. Can it be said that the work of the commission has stimulated primary production or been responsible for the establishment of one new industry? The chairman and members of. that body have toured continuously and talked incessantly; they have incurred enormous expenditure which must be met by the taxpayers of this country. Even in this Supply Bill, covering a period of two months, there is provision for £14,500 to cover *the Australian and London organizations, as well as the Fairbridge farm school. At this rate of expenditure the cost of the commission to the taxpayers of Australia will probably be £100,000 a year.

Senator Ogden - It is outrageous.

Senator FINDLEY - It would be if that expenditure were incurred. The commission is superfluous. I strongly opposed its appointment. According to the supporters of the bill the commission was to do work which no State authority, and not even the Commonwealth Parliament itself proposed to do. At the time; I pointed out that there were, in the various States of the Commonwealth, certain responsible bodies whose duty it was to advise their respective Governments of certain necessary works and how those works should be proceded with. Members of this commission came into the field, so far as primary and secondary industries were concerned, as apprentices, compared with those journeymen authorities in the respective States.

Senator Ogden - According to press reports, they propose now to prevent frosts.

Senator FINDLEY - I noticed in the press the other day a statement that the chairman of the commission and Mr. Gunn, one of its members, had paid a visit to the dried fruits areas of Mildura and Redcliffs, in Victoria, to enquire into the position of the growers there - many of them are returned soldiers - who are extremely anxious about next season's crop. As honorable senators are no doubt aware, the northern districts of Victoria have been passing through a very dry season. Recently, after highly beneficial rains, the settlers became optimistic, and were hoping that all their difficulties were overcome. Unfortunately, a severe frost did immense damage to the growing crops. The chairman of the commission and Mr. Gunn promptly visited the frostbitten areas, and according to press reports, intimated that they proposed to recommend the convening of a conference of the Premiers of the several States, to consider the position.

Senator McLachlan - Nothing of the sort.

Senator FINDLEY - Well, that is what I read in the newspapers. It was stated also that the commission considered that steps should be taken to obtain the services of a scientist from abroad to advise the respective Governments and the commission as to the best methods of dealing with crops affected by frost. Can it be argued that this is part of the work which the commission is expected to perform? And has any report been presented by that body ? So far as I know, the appointment of the commission has not led to the introduction to Australia of one migrant, nor has it been responsible for the cultivation of a single peanut in this country. I await with a great deal of interest a report from these gentlemen. We can hardly pick up a newspaper any day without reading that they have been to some place in Australia and have taken advantage of the opportunity' to air their views with regard to many questions that affect the people of Australia. Apparently they have no fixed place of abode. If they intend to do serious work, why do they not settle down in some place, at least for a time, where they can do the work that is expected of them?

Senator Chapman - They have to travel all over Australia to examine the various schemes that have been put forward.

Senator FINDLEY - Certainly they are travelling all over Australia. If they continue to travel over Australia at the same rate in future, their travelling expenses, quite apart from their salaries, will cost the people of this country a tidy sum.

Senator Chapman - They arc doing good work in South Australia.

Senator FINDLEY - What work have they done that had not been done previously by the Government of South Australia or its responsible officers? Does the honorable senator suggest that the present or previous governments of South Australia, or their responsible officers, are not or have not been competent to do that which is being done by the commission? If he does, it is a reflection upon the responsible officers.

Senator Reid - They may not have had the necessary funds.

Senator FINDLEY - Is the South Australian Government going to foot the bill for the expenditure of ?14,500?

Senator Chapman - It could not proceed with the west coast scheme.

Senator FINDLEY - The- Commonwealth Parliament has made available this sum of money, and it is not all to be spent in South Australia. The work to which the honorable senator has referred represents a very small percentage of the whole. It is foolish and absurd to infer that the Government of South Australia is so financially embarrassed as to be unable to make provision for such a paltry sum.

I shall now touch upon another aspect of migration. From time to lime members are supplied with copies of " The Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire." Malta, as honorable senators are aware, has responsible government. Under the heading " Migration " this journal refers to the migration scheme-, of the Maltese Government in the following terms : -

On 30th December, 1920, in the Legislative Assembly,

Mr. W.Salomone asked the Head of the Ministry how much of the ?0,000 voted in the previous month for assisted passages to emigrants had been expended; what was the criterion followed in selection of candidates for the grants; and how much was being apportioned to each emigrant and under what contions ?

The Head of the Ministry (Dr. the Honorable U. P. Mifsud) laid on the Table a paper relative to a scheme which, he said, when it came into operation, would, it was hoped, allay partially the distress consequent, principally on the discharges then in course from the RoYal Dockyard and indirectly on grounds coincident therewith.

The honorable gentleman made a fairly lengthy statement, in the course of which he said -

There were two large immigrating countries, at least, which had enacted laws against the admission of assisted emigrants (Canada and the United States). It was known that the Argentine did not look with any favour on the advent of such emigrants. In regard to other countries, it was undesirable that it should be publicly manifest that Maltese emigrants were being financially assisted for the specific purpose of going there, for their doors would be immediately closed against all emigration from Malta. Whilst, therefore, the Government was prepared to assist unemployed deserving persons to the best of its ability, it was most undesirable that it should be thought that there was any intention of dumping. For that reason it had been considered advisable to make the scheme entirely independent of the Emigration Department.

The report continues as follows: -

Referring to paragraph II. of the scheme which dealt with the question of sending to Australia and South America two gentlemen to study local conditions and make some preparation, Dr. Mifsud said that the directors of the Orient and Royal Mail Lines had offered to the Government first-class complimentary return passages to Australia and South America for the two gentlemen deputed to proceed to those countries. That would mean a clear saving to the Government of well over £300.

It would appear from that official publication that the Maltese Government is assisting its unemployed people to come to Australia, and that there are two gentlemen who propose to visit this country to study local conditions. Has the Government any information to convey to honorable senators in relation to that scheme? Have representatives of the Government yet arrived in Australia ; and, if they have, have they, been in touch with the administration here ? It cannot be denied that Maltese are arriving in Australia, and that many of them have found employment. It seems strange that Australians, who are competent and anxious to work in the land of their birth, are not able to obtain employment whilst new arrivals, who were unemployed when they left their own country, are not long in Australia before permanent employment is found for them, despite their inability to speak the English language. I have no animus against any human being, no matter where he may have been born; neither has any other Labour " representative. We are sent to this Parliament to represent the

Australian people. We are bound to do the utmost that lies in our power to advance the welfare of Australia and further the interests of the working class, which comprises the majority of the total population. I shall await with interest the reply, of the Minister.

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